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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Love on the Island

By Lord Byron (1788–1824)

From ‘Don Juan’

IT was the cooling hour, just when the rounded

Red sun sinks down behind the azure hill,

Which then seems as if the whole earth it bounded,

Circling all nature, hushed, and dim, and still,

With the far mountain-crescent half-surrounded

On one side, and the deep sea calm and chill

Upon the other, and the rosy sky,

With one star sparkling through it like an eye.

And thus they wandered forth, and hand in hand,

Over the shining pebbles and the shells,

Glided along the smooth and hardened sand,

And in the worn and wild receptacles

Worked by the storms, yet worked as it were planned,

In hollow halls, with sparry roofs and cells,

They turned to rest; and, each clasped by an arm,

Yielded to the deep twilight’s purple charm.

They looked up to the sky, whose floating glow

Spread like a rosy ocean, vast and bright;

They gazed upon the glittering sea below,

Whence the broad moon rose circling into sight;

They heard the waves splash, and the wind so low,

And saw each other’s dark eyes darting light

Into each other—and, beholding this,

Their lips drew near, and clung into a kiss:

A long, long kiss, a kiss of youth and love

And beauty, all concentrating like rays

Into one focus, kindled from above;

Such kisses as belong to early days,

Where heart, and soul, and sense, in concert move,

And the blood’s lava, and the pulse a blaze,

Each kiss a heart-quake—for a kiss’s strength,

I think, it must be reckoned by its length.

By length I mean duration; theirs endured

Heaven knows how long—no doubt they never reckoned;

And if they had, they could not have secured

The sum of their sensations to a second:

They had not spoken; but they felt allured,

As if their souls and lips each other beckoned,

Which, being joined, like swarming bees they clung—

Their hearts the flowers from whence the honey sprung.

They were alone, but not alone as they

Who, shut in chambers, think it loneliness;

The silent ocean, and the starlit bay,

The twilight glow, which momently grew less,

The voiceless sands, and dropping caves, that lay

Around them, made them to each other press,

As if there were no life beneath the sky

Save theirs, and that their life could never die.

They feared no eyes nor ears on that lone beach,

They felt no terrors from the night; they were

All in all to each other: though their speech

Was broken words, they thought a language there;

And all the burning tongues the passions teach

Found in one sigh the best interpreter

Of nature’s oracle, first love,—that all

Which Eve has left her daughters since her fall.

And when those deep and burning moments passed,

And Juan sank to sleep within her arms,

She slept not, but all tenderly, though fast,

Sustained his head upon her bosom’s charms;

And now and then her eye to heaven is cast,

And then on the pale cheek her breast now warms,

Pillowed on her o’erflowing heart, which pants

With all it granted, and with all it grants.

An infant when it gazes on the light,

A child the moment when it drains the breast,

A devotee when soars the Host in sight,

An Arab with a stranger for a guest,

A sailor when the prize has struck in fight,

A miser filling his most hoarded chest,

Feel rapture; but not such true joy are reaping,

As they who watch o’er what they love while sleeping.

For there it lies, so tranquil, so beloved;

All that it hath of life with us is living;

So gentle, stirless, helpless, and unmoved,

And all unconscious of the joy ’tis giving.

All it hath felt, inflicted, passed, and proved,

Hushed into depths beyond the watcher’s diving:

There lies the thing we love, with all its errors

And all its charms, like death without its terrors.

The lady watched her lover—and that hour

Of Love’s, and Night’s, and Ocean’s solitude,

O’erflowed her soul with their united power;

Amidst the barren sand and rocks so rude,

She and her wave-worn love had made their bower

Where naught upon their passion could intrude;

And all the stars that crowded the blue space

Saw nothing happier than her glowing face.

Alas, the love of women! it is known

To be a lovely and a fearful thing;

For all of theirs upon that die is thrown,

And if ’tis lost, life hath no more to bring

To them but mockeries of the past alone,

And their revenge is as the tiger’s spring,

Deadly and quick and crushing; yet as real

Torture is theirs—what they inflict they feel.